If you recreate on trails and roads in the Murphy Dome area, a proposed wind farm project will be of interest to you.
The Shovel Creek Wind LLC has applied for a lease from the state to install wind turbines and other facilities along ridges in the Murphy Dome area. A public comment period is open until 5 p.m., Monday, January 29.
While this project will have positive impacts, such as projected lower community power costs and a reduction of fossil fuel emissions by the Golden Valley Electric Association, it will also have negative impacts, such as changing the viewshed and developing currently raw land. The project has caused a lot of heated discussion in Fairbanks.
Whether you support it, oppose it, or support it with caveats, you should comment. Find out how here: http://notice.alaska.gov/213611
Project Impact on Area
According to “Attachment A – Development Plan (11-13-2023).pdf,” found at the above “notice” link, the project will use a considerable amount of land in that area. How much would depend on the amount of energy GVEA would agree to purchase from Shovel Creek Wind. GVEA’s Request for Proposals targeted renewable energy projects between 40-150MW. Shovel Creek has sized its development plan to allow for a larger project or future expansion up to 264 MW. That larger plan would include up to 63 wind turbines. Each turbine would require a pad of 3.5 to 5 acres. The plan would also require:
- A substation (up to 3 acres)
- A laydown yard (about 25 acres)
- An area for a maintenance building (up to 5 acres)
- Up to five permanent meteorological towers (1-4 acres each)
- A battery storage system (up to 20 acres)
- Electrical cabling to connect the system (most underground but some above ground)
- Improvement of Murphy Dome Extension Road up to milepost 8
- Access roads up to 52 feet wide to and between project facilities
- High voltage transmission towers and lines connecting to the existing GVEA electrical grid
Also, under “Special Site Considerations” (page 8-9 of the development plan) there is a section that discusses “General recreation and tourism uses are common in the area.” At the end of the plan are maps of the planned development.
Project Impact on Trails and Roads
According to A.J. Wait of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, the project should not permanently restrict any access to roads or trails.
“There is a network of trails in the area,” Wait wrote in an email. “Shovel Creek Wind has indicated they do not intend to prevent access to and through the area. If there are specific trails you believe should be protected in their existing alignment or location where a trail vs a gravel road is preferable for travel through to maintain the character of existing access, please let us know. There may be temporary restrictions of access along the ridgetops during periods of construction.”
Also, according to Wait: “DOT manages Murphy Dome Road and Murphy Dome Road Extension: while the project would not restrict long term access along these roads, DOT does sometimes authorize restrictions such as the use of flaggers. Please contact DOT for additional information on these types of activities if you would like more information. I strongly suspect no applications have been submitted to DOT at this point for any activities within the road.”
A company website about the project is HERE.
Photos for Illustration
Three photos below help illustrate aspects of the project.
The first photo is from a Goldstream Community Facebook Page commenter, Oralee Nudson. She opposes the project but has also seemed reliable with her presentation of the facts.
According to Nudson: “The middle round peak in this photo is Luck Dome, a proposed location of the BESS facility. There would be turbines the entire distance from Luck Dome to the photographer’s position and beyond. Each turbine pad would be a cleared and graveled area of 3.5 to 5 acres on the currently most accessible and scenic ridge lines near Fairbanks.”
The next photo is from the Shovel Creek Wind development plan. It presents a “visualization” of the project with the turbines far off in the distance. They are barely noticeable. While this will be the case from some points in the Murphy Dome area, the turbines and facilities will be much more noticeable up close.
Finally, here is a photo of a biker under one of the turbines at GVEA’s Eva Creek wind farm near Healy.